The RSPCA has welcomed the inclusion of a category for cross-breeds at this year’s Crufts – but insists all dogs should be judged on their health and welfare rather than their appearance.

Britain’s biggest animal welfare charity is pleased to see the inclusion of Scruffts, alongside the Friends for Life class for rescue dogs, at Crufts 2013. However, it is still only a small step in the right direction with most classes being judged predominantly on the dogs’ physical looks.

The RSPCA launched the Born To Suffer campaign in 2011 to calls for the Kennel Club’s breed standards to be reviewed by a panel of independent experts, so that they prioritise the health, welfare and temperament of the dogs over their appearance.

The campaign petition has already received nearly 23,000 signatures from members of the public who share our view.

RSPCA scientific officer Lisa Richards also welcomed Channel 4’s pledge to highlight the serious issues which continue to affect pedigree dogs – including exaggerated features and hereditary diseases – during its coverage of Crufts this year.

She said: “Shows like Crufts focus predominantly on appearance when judging. This has a significant impact on the way that dogs are bred and so we want all classes to judge animals according to their heath, temperament and welfare, rather than focussing on how they look.

“We’re concerned that many pedigree dogs are still suffering because they are bred and judged primarily on breed standards that need reviewing to ensure they address many of the recognised health concerns.

“Although some progress has been made by the dog world to address these issues, it has not been nearly enough and the problems are far from being solved.

“We believe that all of those who benefit from dogs have a collective responsibility to work together to ensure that the health and welfare of pedigree dogs is protected.”

Three major reports were published on dog breeding in the UK in the 18 months following Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The documentary, first broadcast on BBC One more than four years ago, investigated some of the serious health and welfare issues experienced by many pedigree dogs as a result of the way they are bred.

All three reports concluded that the welfare issues associated with pedigree dog breeding are extremely serious, while the recent EFRA report on dog control and welfare said that too many dogs continue to suffer ill-health due to inbreeding and breeding for exaggerated characteristics, and there is still much to be done to protect the future health of dogs.

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